One of the teenage boys spent more than seven hours in hospital after a gang of young men launched an unprovoked assault on the group who had been taking part in a charity walk.
The terrified youngsters and their teachers had to barricade themselves inside the Frenchgate centre branch of Boots after being punched and kicked repeatedly by the gang, which was said by eyewitnesses to number at least 15 to 20 people.
Now the mothers of two of those attacked have hit out at those responsible, with one saying it was a ‘miracle’ her son wasn’t killed in the incident, which took place at around 4pm on November 25.
The teens, who we are not identifying, are all deaf, have autism and other complex special needs.
They were crossing Church Way near to the Frenchgate tunnels when the gang began taunting them, according to one of their mothers.
She said: "My lad is autistic and can just stare at people but doesn’t mean harm by it, it’s just part of his condition. He was staring when one of these lads said ‘what are you looking at?’
"Then he came at him and started slapping and punching him. The teachers were trying to get in the way and were taking a lot of the kicks and punches but he was getting hit around the head by about four or five lads.
"They were trying to escape but he must have been punched around the head 30 to 40 times. It’s a miracle he didn’t suffer a fatal blow, they were hitting him that hard.”
The group had just finished a Duke of Edinburgh charity walk and were returning to their school when they came under attack.
Another mother, whose son was also injured, said: “He’s been having nightmares since it happened. He doesn’t normally cry or show emotions, but he’s been crying and having flashbacks.
"These are vulnerable young lads who don’t even go outside on their own. It’s just lucky the teachers were there to protect them otherwise I dread to think what might have happened.
"The staff jumped in and bore the brunt of the attack. They had to run inside Boots and barricade themselves in. These lads were just like animals.”
All of the students suffered cuts and bruises while it is understood one of teachers suffered broken ribs and a black eye in the attack.
The mother added: “Those teachers are heroes in my eyes. I can’t thank them enough for what they did to protect the boys. It is absolutely shocking that a group of disabled children can be set upon in this way.
Staff at Boots called police but by the time officers arrived, the gang had disappeared.
She added: “What happened was absolutely awful and someone must know those involved. We want anyone who can help to come forward with information.”
South Yorkshire Police has confirmed an investigation is under way. Anyone with information can contact police on 101.